Exam season is upon us folks!
This time of life is different for all of us.
Some of us are last minute crammers, some are long time planners, some get overwhelmed and pretend it’s not even happening.
Whatever your exam style is, we all have something in common: the desire to not fail.
Sure, there a lot of students out there with much higher goals, but at our core we all want to avoid failing.
The first thing to remember is you can do ANYTHING for "xyz" amount of time.
This season will not last forever.
You will survive.
Now that we have established there is light at the end of whatever exam tunnel you are facing, let’s talk about how to make the MOST out of this stressful time.
1. PLAN, STRATEGIZE, AND ORGANIZE.
I cannot stress this enough.
This has been the key to my success.
Though we all have different study and exam-prep styles, this is the ONE thing I know every single person can benefit from.
Plan out all the information you know you need to shove in your head and understand to pass your final exams. I write it out by class first.
Then I strategize. I determine which classes I feel more comfortable with the material. I look at the order of my exams. I decide the manner and mode I will study for each class.
After making these choices I pull out a notebook and organize my plan and strategy on paper.
This is only two of my classes, but it should give you an idea of how I strategize and plan.
After making the choice to reread all the material for the whole semester, I broke it down into manageable portions.
My criminal procedure exam is first, so I gave myself heavier reading on that topic to start off. I plan every semester to start studying the beginning of the month that I will take my exam. As you can see, I started with April 1, 2019. I break down my study agenda by day. Then I plan how much I will read and take notes on.
This may seem like a waste of time.
But remember, your notebook doesn’t have to neat or pretty, it just helps me be creative during a very dull time of life.
I won’t lie, it does take time. You have to give yourself a few hours to plan out the next month or few weeks of your life. BUT when you enter the final few days or hours of studying you won’t have to worry about running out of time to learn everything or missing a big topic.
I didn’t study until I got to law school... I didn’t even know how to study...
This is the strategy I have developed over the last two years, and it WORKS!
I promise you won’t regret any proactive planning you do!
2. Do NOT wait until the last minute to study!
This plays off the previous tip, but seriously. Don’t. Do. It.
You will only have yourself to blame, and self-deprecating thoughts during exams is a KILLER!
Listen, I am a big procrastinator.
I have to use every ounce of will power to overcome my natural instincts to put off responsibilities until the last second. I am living proof, that procrastinators can be proactive. It’s hard, but you will thank yourself later. Refer to Tip #1.
Your brain doesn’t work like DropBox. You can’t just dump a ton of information into your head in one day and expect to be able to access all the files on your exam.
As humans we can do some pretty incredible things, but learning six months of information in a day or a few hours isn’t one of them.
Give yourself time to take in the knowledge. Let it sit. Marinate over it. Start pondering deeper thoughts. Actually LEARN instead of memorizing.
Use your study strategy and start early so you can give yourself enough time to learn the material.
You’ll be amazed at how much your stress level will decrease.
3. Take breaks.
This plays off the previous two tips.
If you have planned ahead and started studying early, this will be a breeze. You won’t feel overwhelmed by the idea of giving yourself and your brain a break.
You have to be careful to not burn out.
You have to take personal and social breaks.
Go for a walk!
If you like working out, go to the gym.
But walking is something EVERYONE can do.
Get outside and walk it out!
Another break you should take? Lunch and dinner breaks!
Don’t forget to eat.
I struggled with this my first semester in law school. I would put my head down and study for hours and hours and forget to give my body fuel.
Exam season my first semester in law school was MISERABLE.
I was diligent in following Tip #1 and #2, but I took ZERO breaks.
Coincidence that I felt awful physically and mentally? I think not!
I was driven by pure fear that first semester and it caused me to neglect my own health.
Don’t let this be you.
Take a deep breath, eat, sleep, exercise.
Not only will your grades be higher, but your mental health won’t suffer (as much).
Let’s be real, it’s still exam season, you’ll struggle a little no matter how much you follow all these tips. Which leads me to Tip #4.
4. Tell yourself you can do it!
I know what you’re thinking.
That’s silly. It is, but it works surprisingly well.
I wake up and as I am getting ready I look in the mirror and talk to myself.
(I swear I’m not crazy.)
Studies show that believing in yourself is a HUGE motivator when you are feeling sluggish or doubting yourself. It’s also proven that verbally telling yourself how great you are is an instant mood-booster.
Just try it. Try it when nobody is around.
If you feel weird, laugh at yourself. That’s part of why this is so powerful.
Other people can tell you that you’re great, but can you tell yourself?
More importantly, can you let yourself believe it?
Risking the very real possibility that everyone reading this will think I am insane…
I want to share some things I have told myself in the mirror.
“Carlie. You can do this. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t deserving. You are capable of great things if you WORK for them. Get out there and work for it, or don’t complain when you fall short.”
If you still don’t love the idea of talking to yourself, write yourself a note instead. Equally effective, but I personally like talking to myself. Yes, call me crazy.
5. Call your mom.
Save this one for when your mirror-pep-talks stop being enough.
Moms (or dads, or grandparents, or siblings) LOVE you and probably believe in your potential more than you do.
I am guilty of brushing off my family during this busy season. I know they will always be there when it’s over, and I tell myself I just don’t have to time to spare. BIG mistake.
Thankfully, it only took me until I was twenty-three years old to realize that my family is what I need most in difficult times...
Don’t let yourself take as long as I did to realize this.
Call. Listen. Don’t complain. Don’t lament about how busy you are. Don’t be negative.
Use this phone call to ask for encouragement or to be distracted from all you have to accomplish in a short time.
This phone call could be the ray of light you need.
This call could be your saving grace.
Take the time to reach out to those who love you most.
6. Ask questions.
This one is hard for me to give advice on, because I am terrible at this.
I prefer figuring things out on my own.
For whatever (messed-up) reason, I have always viewed asking questions as a showing of weakness. I hate to play the “woman-card,” but during college I was one of only a few females in the Applied Mathematics program.
Every. Single. One. Of my professors was male.
I NEVER went to their office.
I never asked them about complicated concepts that didn’t quite stick. I would either figure it out on my own or just let it go.
I HATE that I was so weak. Yup, I said it.
Not asking questions to professionals who are there to teach and explain these concepts was WEAK.
Whatever reason I told myself I was weak for asking questions was misplaced and only hurt me.
Don’t be that person.
We aren’t supposed to know everything.
If we were then we wouldn’t be in school still learning.
Use the support tools that are available to you.
Ask professors questions. Speak with students who have already taken the course.
Utilize supplemental material. Seek further understanding.
Don’t put the pressure on yourself to know it all.
7. Don’t stop until you’re proud.
Quitting is the easy way out. We all want to do it. But resist!
After I’ve had my head down four or five days, studying over ten hours each day, I am ready to quit. Unfortunately I typically still have two weeks ahead of me when I feel this way. Tips #1-5 will help with this!
But on a serious note, give yourself a reason to be proud.
Don’t do just enough to get by.
Don’t stop because you know you have done enough to pass.
Keep going until you can be proud of how hard you worked.
Keep going until you can be proud of the exam grade you will earn.
Keep going until you are proud of yourself for making it out of exam season in one piece.
G O O D L U C K ! ! !
Let me know if you have any questions or need some motivation.